So, Today I have a dumb question …

For everybody with reshaping domestic league and academy ideas ….

 If the English Premiership with its fantastic viewership worldwide and the Spanish La Liga are amongst the two best in the world, attracting and showcasing the best soccer and inspiring generation after generation of talent, then why are England and Spain ranked 8th and 9th worldwide respectively?

Yes, the opening gambit’s going to be foreign talent has a large role to play, but that opens up the discussion so lets hear it … And yes , its all about cricket…


24 thoughts on “So, Today I have a dumb question …

  1. Emburey makes a pertinent point- who gains from the infrastructure laid out to support a particular sport?

    Australia has an inclusive structure but they still lead the table in just about every sport they compete in.

    Could it be that they have in place a self reinforcing mechanism – a good structure leads to better players who drive for a better structure that..

  2. So basically what Emburey’s saying Homer, is that when Hussey comes here and plays, he becomes a better player than he would in Australia cos he gets to play more here. Fair enough.
    But what about the guys from England who play there all year long ?!

  3. Sfx,

    Firstly, they don’t play all year long. Secondly, does the existing mechanism in place in England call for self evaluation and self correction?

    My knowledge of sporting structures is limited to India and the US ( primarily).

    The US sports structure has provisions for both self evaluation and self correction.India does not.

    And an aside – the two teams that have pioneered changes in cricket are Australia and Pakistan.

    The contrast in the sporting structures could not be starker yet both nations have brought changes to the way we play and understand cricket that none of the other cricketing nations can hold a candle to.

  4. “Does the existing mechanism in England call for self evaluation and self correction ? ” .. Hmmm I am not sure what you mean by that Homer … but I’ll tell you where John Emburey’s argument has a basic flaw …

    Players go across boundaries to play the premiership, or the La Liga , or the NBA, or to play for counties to play for the money just as much as they go to improve their skills . I doubt if Lara came to learn much. Or if Beckham went over to do that either. Those are the facts.

    And thats the truth that governs sports now. Sooner or later, India’ll follow.

    How has having that pioneering infrastructure in England – and all that money helped them at all ?

  5. Sfx,

    Zaheer went over to play County cricket to boost his prospects for the national team. Ditto Ganguly.

    Was money the sole driving force?

    Let me dig into this a little more.. Will have something for you in a week or two 🙂

    In the meantime, Chandan had put together the PIL put forth by Rahul Mehra against the BCCI.. Any thoughts on how to get it the widest possible coverage?

  6. For every Zaheer and Ganguly , there’ll be a Warne and Lara – and anyway , thats not what I’m saying. I’m saying people go for money “as much as” for skills – at best.

    My point is that this whole debate about our revamping our domestic structure to be a World class side does not make sense to me … but I wanna hear what people say.


    (Re the PIL – honestly – i have not read enough about it – but will go through it from your post in detail and come up with some suggestions hopefully. )

  7. Frankly Zaheer and Ganguly went to England because of the historical baggage we carry in terms of weightage to domestic performances.. The selectors are willing to look at a Dinesh Mongia because he bowls well in 20/20 but not at a good Ranji performer… I don’t think other countries have that bias to County performances

  8. Don’t wanna get sidetracked from the main issue of the post but thats a good point ….

    Is a JP Yadav’s domestic scene a good enough comparison with a Dinesh Mongia county performance.

    Pakistan sure didn’t seem to think so with Azhar Mahmood….

  9. Sfx,

    Mumbai engineered what is probably the greatest turn around in the history of India’s domestic cricket when they turned their fortunes around. And they did this with a young, raw team and a new captain and coach.

    Has anyone bothered to tap into their collective experience to understand how this turn around came about?

    has anyone asked the Mumbai selectors on the punt they took with youngsters and why? what was the collective thought process in making the decisions they did?

    And what of the players? Has a critical analysis been done on the player attitude in defeat and victory and their collective drive and thought?

    Thing is, does our system have in place mechanisms to do this critical analysis? Do we even have this as part of our thought process?

    Short story – Before the start of the domestic season last year, I had a conversation with a worthy at the MCA. Was shooting the breeze on our prospects in the Ranji season and how the team was being rebuilt etc. And in course of that conversation, the worthy mentioned that the new players want a shrink and a trainer and a physio and how these kids have it easy and how demanding they are.

    What stuck me was not the “how the kids have it easy” but the fact that these kids were making these demands. I would be very interested in knowing if these demands came about because having trainers etc is the latest fad in cricket or because the kids actually understood the import of having this support staff and how best to leverage them for maximizing oneself.

    Thing is, teams can splurge as much money as they want, but unless they have robust mechanisms in place for critical evaluation and self correction, winning wont become an sustainable habit – just ask the Yankees or Barcelona 🙂

  10. Thanks for that story and can see where you are coming from.
    But thats exactly the point I was starting the post with. I see loads of discussion about changing the structure in Indian cricket? Why ? Why this obsession with a new format ? We keep creating new states, so the effing format keeps changing anyways !!!

    I think till the ICL comes up we’re all shooting in the dark …

    So lemme try a random qn…
    If there is a BCCI league and a second bunch of guys playing the ICL, and one bunch of selectors by the BCCI selecting an India team , how’s the selection committee meeting even gonna start ?

  11. Sfx,

    Restructuring Indian domestic cricket is to allow for a greater amount of games to be played and to make the structure more competitive.

    We are captive to a state/region based format. Now, within that format, how can we make thesetup more competitive and what are the mechanisms for talent identification within this setup is what most of the arguments are centered around.

    Does that mean that the conversation should not include mechanisms for feedback and analysis? They absolutely should. And should be a part of the debate.

    As regards your q,if the BCCI and the ICL are working against each other, the answer is a no brainer. If they are working in tandem, then that poses a question – the answer lies in how much weight age the BCCI attaches to performances in one league versus the other.

    Cheers 🙂

  12. Homer,

    The premise of more games + more competitive = better talent + better results is the one that the EPL and the La Liga labs are disproving.

    Thats the premise I want to question.

    Re ICL / BCCI – i guess it will remain a shot in the dark for a while. And when the answer lies in an Ozzy Osbourne lyric 🙂 …….

  13. not big on Ozzy although Metallica would be right up my alley 🙂

    As regards the premise, lets break it down

    1. More games – The need for more games is because the number of games played in a single season in India is way too little for us to critically evaluate a player and/or a team. Increasing the number of games gives us a bigger sample to base our inferences on

    2. Competitive – more games does not automatically translate to increased competition.So, the question then is, how do you amp up the stakes so that the contests are meaningful and competitive. And this within the existing framework. And if the mold has to be broken, what is the best alternate that is inclusive but meeting the requirements.

    Now, if the formula is right, the increased competition over a greater number of games will give us better inputs on who ranks where. This is the talent evaluation part.

    Now, getting that talent together and making them function as a team is the other aspect of the discussions – how does one create a team ethos even when the members of the team may be changing.

    This is what the debate is centered around.


  14. Hiya there Homer ..

    I understand th premise and actually think its a good one. Rather, absence any other, its a good one to follow …

    But the whole point of this post is just that. There are the top two leagues (bar none) in the world’s most popular sport (bar none) putting precisely those premises to test. And from the results – are failing.

    I cant understand it. And just wanted to discuss it. I don’t mean to diss anybody who’s suggesting anything else for Indian cricket. Far from it.

  15. Sfx,

    Are they the two most competitive leagues in the world or the best marketed?

    And within the leagues themselves, the teams are greater than the sum of their parts ( and that again is not true across the board) – is that true in the national teams of these two countries?


  16. As you know, as far as soccer goes, there’s a lot more fanaticism of opinion than cricket, but I’d say in terms of talent and competitiveness – which are the premises we are looking for – yes, they are probably the two most competitive leagues in the world bar none.
    When we start discussing teams and sums and parts , thats when it starts getting really interesting (and murky) and it would be great if some more folks joined in – but take the example of England.
    They have 3 of their clubs in the semi finals of the Champions League this year. A lot of their players play in the leagues – with other players from countries as far and away as Ivory Coast – Russia – Portugal – Brazil – Italy – in various formations with amazing skill and flexibility ; coached by a Portugese or a French or a Scot or whoever. And they play high level and gruelling, competitive soccer. Almost every weekend through the season.
    And yet, when they get together – and are playing for that flag – with all that support – in teh world cup – or even in the qualifiers for europe – in specialist positions, its just not coming together.
    Spain is similar.

  17. Sfx,

    Man to man Germany was a superior team to Argentina in the World Cup in ’86. Except for Diego Armando.

    Italy was a better team than Germany or Argentina in 90.

    And what of the Dutch team that won Euro 88? The greatest assembly of talent that I have seen and yet they lost in the second round in the World Cup in 90.

    So, what gives?

    PS:= Diego Armando – thanks for giving me the opportunity to type those two words.. Sweet memories of a different time and a different place 🙂

  18. Thanks for that Homer.
    As with most things, two sides to most arguments.
    “Murali, the overseas player bowls the last over thereby denying the local lad the chance of gaining the experience” vs ” Kumble bowls the last crunch over for India A, thereby denying Piyush Chawla” vs “These seniors never show up for the domestic games” …. it could go on an on and on ..
    The part of that article that’s gonna make me toss and turn tonight is ““Twenty20 is all about entertainment, no more no less, and they should be allowed to play in that and they have to play in the championship or you’re effectively putting a ban on them, which is not allowed. The 50-over competition seems to make most sense, as it’s the one we desperately need to improve nationally

  19. About the Michael Hussey point – i think the reason why Cricketers from West Indies, Pakistan and Australia have frequented county cricket (and the number of players from each of these sides being regular members of county sides correlates very well with their respective periods of dominance/top table placement) is because County Cricket is a rigorous, hard grind in conditions which are significantly different from those found in West Indies, Pakistan and Australia. Indeed, there hasn’t been a single Pakistan cricketer (barring Waqar Younis and Inzamam Ul Haq), who became champion competitors at international level without a significant apprenticeship in county cricket. Plus, as overseas professionals they are encouraged to take more responsibility than the locals.

    These two reasons are probably why English players haven’t done as well as their overseas counterparts in international cricket. Having said that, England do have a really good side right now, especially in English conditions.

    The point about the two very rich and strong football leagues in Europe (lets add Spain to the list as well… ) is an intriguing one. It is on the face of it, the very antithesis of the First Class situation in India. India’s national side is way way better than First Class Cricket promises. It points to something ive been thinking about and basing my proposal for a domestic format on – that a first class league is not well served if it is viewed merely as a feeder to a national side – a national side to be even remotely successful against the best teams in the world must consist of eleven players who are a class above the average first class level. Most players who go on to play successfully for India, merely confirm their potential in First Class Cricket (if that) on their way to the national side.

    In order for it to be effective, it has to be the other way round – the exceptional talent in the national side must make itself available in the domestic league to inject some difficult challenges for first class cricketers. First Class Cricket can’t be the cradle of the national team – First Class Cricket must be the organized backbone of the sport – for which the sport has to be viewed as a sport.

    I think this view is supported by what is happening in football – im not sure about the basis of the FIFA ranking, but the simple fact of the matter is that the French brilliance in recent years is down to a generation which emerged in the early 90’s (possibly inspired by Platini) and either won or made the final of the youth world cup. International Football is different from international cricket – if you leave out the World Cup Final, the biggest games in football are the various cup finals and the various league games. There are no Test series in football like there are in Cricket or Rugby.

    So id think theres a number of reasons – and the fairly liberal dose of overseas professionals in these teams is another reason for this happening – 8/15 Man U first team players are English, while only 5/15 Chelsea first team players are English – and it is the other 7 and 10 who form the bulk of the first eleven regulars for both these clubs.

    Its similar to what has happened to England – while Pakistan, West Indies and Australia have built the best teams in the World in the last 30 years. Supremely gifted players from these three places go to England (creaming in inherent because the money is so good for overseas professionals – always has been good compared to what these players could make in their home country), and gain experience in conditions alien to their own – they are hungrier as overseas professionals (like IITians in the USA… ) and then hammer England in England. 🙂

    The South Americans to exactly the same thing with Spain and Italy.

  20. Thanks for the thoughts Kartikeya.
    I think its easier to understand conundrum in cricket – (counties v countries) and I particularly liked the IITians in the USA analogy. A brilliant example of lateral thinking.
    Soccer’s example though is not so easy. And if cricket, led by Twenty/20’s popularity, ICL etc starts seeing a club culture creep in , or national boundaries dissolve or merge for whatever reason, then domestic structures by themselves will start becoming hazy…..
    Re India’s domestic structure, I’ve followed your thoughts and posts with interest, but with the ICL cloud hanging over, I’m not sure what the right way forward is going to be. They promise integration. Half of me says “Wow”. The other half says “Yeah, right !” …

  21. The ICL is a business enterprise, and i doubt whether it will ever go beyond one day cricket. As it is, it looks like it will start with 20-20 cricket. I dont think a bunch of 40 year olds (McGrath, Lara, Warne etc) want to play full ODI games or 4 day games.

    ICL is not comparable to Packer’s cricket, because Packer sponsored Test Matches, and built teams to play Test Matches. From what ive read, ICL is a glorified primetime TV show….

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